Iranian Americans play active role in 2008 election

America.gov, a US State Department publication for international audiences, published this report on the unprecedented level of Iranian-American involvement in the current election, including interviews with NIAC, PAAIA, IABA, and others. 

From America.gov’s Beverly O’Neal:

Los Angeles — Iranian Americans are well-integrated into their communities and are eager to have their voices heard in the 2008 presidential election, according to several Iranian-American organizations.

“Whether it’s volunteering for a campaign, leading fundraising efforts, organizing voter registration drives or get-out-the-vote efforts, Iranian Americans are in the thick of things in this election like never before,” Patrick Disney, assistant legislative director of the Washington-based National Iranian American Council (NIAC), told America.gov.

Full article below the fold…

Iranian Americans Play Active Role in 2008 Election 

Relatively new minority group increasing its participation in civic life

By Beverly O’Neal
Special Correspondent

Los Angeles — Iranian Americans are well-integrated into their communities and are eager to have their voices heard in the 2008 presidential election, according to several Iranian-American organizations.

“Whether it’s volunteering for a campaign, leading fundraising efforts, organizing voter registration drives or get-out-the-vote efforts, Iranian Americans are in the thick of things in this election like never before,” Patrick Disney, assistant legislative director of the Washington-based National Iranian American Council (NIAC), told America.gov.

The Iranian American Political Action Committee (IAPAC) of the Public Affairs Alliance for Iranian Americans (PAAIA) dramatically increased its contributions to local, state and national candidates this election cycle. Morad Ghorban, legislative director of PAAIA, estimates that IAPAC’s contributions and members’ direct contributions to candidates total about $500,000. Iranian-American community organizers are working in both major presidential campaigns.

Ghorban credits the boom of activity in part to Iranian Americans feeling more connected to American life. Iranian Americans are a relatively new U.S. minority group — many Iranians emigrated to the United States after the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

Initially, “Iranian Americans’ focus was on their families, businesses and assimilation,” Ghorban said. “Once the first generation does that, you see the next generation becoming involved in the civic process and giving back to their country.”

GETTING OUT THE IRANIAN-AMERICAN VOTE

Recently, PAAIA and NIAC each held voter-registration drives and provided members with information about the candidates. The Iranian American Bar Association (IABA), with seven chapters across the nation, is releasing its pamphlet on voter rights to organizations like PAAIA and NIAC. On November 4, volunteer attorneys from the IABA and other local bar associations will work at different polling sites to help protect voters’ rights.

These organizations are optimistic about voter turnout.

“It’s not just the newer generation going to the polls,” Nema Milaninia, president of the IABA, told America.gov. “You also see more passion and desire to vote by the older generation.”

Voting may carry special significance to first-generation immigrants, said Goudarz Eghtedari, chairman of the American Iranian Friendship Council.

“For people who are from countries under some sort of authoritarian regime, it becomes especially crucial to take advantage of the rights we have here in America,” Eghtedari told America.gov. “A good percentage of Iranian Americans felt that their voices might not be heard when they left the old country. If they don’t take this first step in voting, they’re not valuing the rights that they have here.”

According to U.S. census data, there are 338,266 Iranian Americans, and they form a small but highly educated and wealthy minority group. According to the census data, the median family income for Iranian Americans is 20 percent above the national average, and Iranian Americans rank second in average level of education among 67 ancestry groups.

“[Iranian Americans] are an overwhelmingly well-educated and successful group, with great potential to provide insight to their representatives on some of the most critical issues facing the United States today,” Disney said.

KEY ISSUES

Many of the issues that matter to Iranian Americans are shared by the general public, Disney added. “They want good schools for their children, they want health care to be affordable, and they’re concerned about energy independence and threats to American security.”

PAAIA lists immigration policy, the domestic effect of U.S.-Iran relations and the domestic effect of U.S. sanctions against Iran as other important issues.

Although PAAIA and other Iranian-American organizations focus on U.S. domestic issues, foreign policy is also a hot topic.

“The overwhelming majority of Iranian Americans do not support the hard-line government in Tehran, but neither do they favor a U.S. war against Iran,” Disney said. ”First and foremost, Iranian Americans want to see the threat of war reduced.” 

Iranian Americans want a president who will engage members of their community on these important issues.  “The primary issue in this election is to make sure the next president is open to dialogue when it comes to Iran,” Eghtedari said.

BEYOND THE VOTING BOOTH

Iranian Americans are doing more than supporting campaigns and voting for candidates. Many are active in politics at many levels. Notable examples include Jimmy Delshad, mayor of Beverly Hills, California; Cookab Hashemi, chief of staff for U.S. Representative Jackie Speier of California; and Darius Shahinfar, a congressional candidate from New York. (See “Legendary American Town Elects a Mayor Born in Iran.”)

These people are role models for Iranian-American youth, who can help shape the world’s future by participating in the political process, Disney said.

“Young Iranian Americans can help resolve the economic crisis,” he said. “They can stop a war before it happens. They can help end discrimination toward people of Middle Eastern descent. They can make it easier for people like them to come to the United States and achieve lifelong dreams. There’s nothing keeping them from doing all of these things and more, so now is the time for them to get involved — and stay involved even after Election Day.”

Posted By Patrick Disney

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Sign the Petition

 

7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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